The Admirals won in dramatic fashion by the final score of 3-2 in overtime against the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night. History was flipped as this time it was the Admirals on their home ice scoring with 0.4 seconds remaining and scoring the game-winner in overtime all off the tape of the same man. The man tonight was Viktor Stålberg who scored his second hat trick of the season with the Admirals.
“It’s such irony,” smiled Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “We lost to them 0.4 seconds in their building. Almost the exact same scenario. What goes around comes around, I guess.”
Viktor Stålberg’s ninth goal of the season opened tonight’s scoring off in the first period. Xavier Ouellet lost the handle of a puck flying back along the boards up to the blue line as the Griffins were in attack. Viktor Arvidsson instantly pounced on it. And Viktor and Viktor were off to the races with Nathan Paetsch between them. As Arvidsson was on the puck Stålberg managed to outskate Paetsch to make it a two-on-ziltch break. Arvidsson passed over from the right wing to his fellow Swede breaking down the slot for a tap-in past Petr Mrázek to make it 1-0.
With 1:20 remaining in the second period the Griffins were able to level the game at 1-1 on Kevin Porter’s tenth goal of the season. A long range clearance from the Griffins zone resulted in a skipping puck that alluded Johan Alm and led to a turnover out in front of Marek Mazanec. Tomas Nosek was able to tee up Porter as he broke from the left of Mazanec and across for a goal that snuck under the left pad.
The Griffins took their first lead of the game in the third period and did it with the AHL’s leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen. Ouellet’s long range shot from the right blue line was snapped out of the air by Pulkkinen with a quick stick. The redirect was able to fool Mazanec in net and it went past him for Pulkkinen’s league leading thirty-fourth goal of the season.
There was 1:34 remaining when the Admirals pulled Mazanec in favor of the extra attacker. The last second push was just that. A last second push. On 18 February, it was the Griffins delivering an equalizing goal with 0.4 seconds remaining. Tonight it was the Admirals turn to equalize with the exact same time remaining.
“I thought we had some good chances,” said Viktor Stålberg. “Eventually we’d get a bounce. We haven’t had much of those bounces in the last couple of weeks. It was nice to get one.”
Kevin Fiala was firing a few pucks on net with the final flurry but, in a last ditch attempt to generate something before time ran out, he threw a puck from the right wing wall and it perfectly hit the blade of Stålberg in front of Mrázek for the simple redirect goal. The goal light and final horn hit at the exact same moment and the play needed a review to determine what time was left on the clock as that goal crossed. It was exactly 0.4 seconds just as the Griffins were able to do a few weeks prior. The goal was Stålberg’s second of the game and tenth of the season.
“Honestly, I was walking,” said Evason. “I looked at Stan [Drulia] a little bit. Triston Grant was in front of us and he said he was leaving too. I just turned and then [Clune] was going crazy so I figured we’d stick around.”
Not to be outdone by flipping the script of that game in Grand Rapids one week ago, Stalberg scored the game-winner in overtime to score his eleventh goal of the season, complete his hat trick, and give the Admirals the win. Joe Piskula’s bank pass off the boards through the neutral zone sent Stålberg loose on the left wing with Nick Jensen pressuring him on his drive to the net. Stålberg didn’t even get a shot off on Mrázek but, on his race to the net, the puck flipped up and past the current CCM/AHL Player of the Week and in to close out the game.
Andy Miele scored with 0.4 seconds to tie and then won the game in overtime only two weeks ago. Stålberg repeated that exact same feat to the letter tonight. Save for one item. Miele’s overtime winner that day took 2:09 of the period. Stålberg’s game-winner in overtime tonight was scored in fifteen seconds. From regulation defeat to overtime winner in just 0:15.4 seconds of ice time. The Griffins may still have their point streak of fourteen games going but their attempt to set a franchise record with an eighth straight win on the road stopped in Milwaukee tonight.
Ramblings: Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals included Jonathan Diaby (undisclosed), Mike Liambas (right leg laceration), Miikka Salomäki (upper body), Garrett Noonan (healthy), and Frédérick Gaudreau (healthy). Joe Piskula made his return to game action after missing the previous nine contests due to a lower-body injury. Tonight’s hat trick was the third time this season that an Admirals hat trick was scored by a Swede named Viktor.
Was this the game of the year? How would you rate the Admirals performance tonight? Why was the Admirals first period effort not carried over through the rest of the game? Can a result like this be the launch pad the Admirals need to get back up to the top of the Midwest Division?